Matthew is Not Amused: a book review

I do not attend a church that lives in the lectionary, but I do have a healthy respect for it, despite its avoidance of difficult passages. I do, however, attend a church that has lived in the gospel of Matthew, on and off, the last few years and so I figured a lectionary resource which explored the year of Matthew would be a good read. Theology from Exile Volume II: the Year of Matthew walks through the lectionary readings for year A of the Revised Common Lectionary for ‘an emerging Christianity.’ The author, Sea Raven, D.Min., is a musician, lay minister in the United Universalist denomination, an advocate of Christian spirituality and a fellow of the Westar Institute.

I don’t have a lot positive to say about this book. Admittedly, had I paid attention to who the author was and her go to theological gurus (i.e. Matthew Fox, John Shelby Spong and the Jesus Seminar), I would have known I was out of step theologically with her. I also wonder if she was born with the name Sea Raven, or took it as a pen name. And if so, I wonder what the significance of naming yourself after a bottom-feeding fish has for this particular project. I digress.  More interestingly, the author has an album of Celtic inspired harp music.

But what of this commentary? I will tell you that when I study a passage for preaching I read along a wide theological spectrum. Theologians who are more liberal than I am but are attentive to the text, have something to teach me. So do those who are more conservative. I do see the value of inhabiting the text as Midrash and  drawing out the social-justice implications (Sea Raven’s stated purpose). However too much of this book views the Bible as ahistorical and  too mythological for my tastes. Myth has power, and the Bible clearly functions as myth. But when an author repeatedly takes the line of, ‘of course it didn’t actually happen, but it is true,’ they expose their ideological commitments. Sea Raven would likely dismiss me as a hopeless biblical literalist. For my part I don’t understand how a believer in God has difficulty accepting miracles, the divine breaking through in the Incarnation of Christ, the bodily resurrection, or Christ’s return. But then I don’t look to the Jesus Seminar as representative of the best modern example of biblical scholarship.

And so I give this book one star.

Notice of Material Connection: I received this book from Speakeasy in exchange for my honest review.


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